‘See me live before I die’ or ‘See me live before I die’ is my new, new-media coded cry, which, spoken, doesn’t work as a sight rhyme.
My new show’s been conceived, written, taken abroad, performed on a bigger, brighter, more open continent, where I’ve been before.
It’s been reviewed – received rave reviews. It’s been rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, and it’s been very well advertised… but ticket sales are low, so low for the solo show, no one seems to want to go – no!
The hope: that the rush will far outweigh the advance. Fat chance. I’m staring at a massive bill for tax, shivering – can’t afford heat. It’s the wrong time of year to sell tricks on the street – I’d sell me a kidney if I thought that they’d ’av’ ’em, but there seems no shortage of alkie cadavers. This ain’t rock and roll, or poetry of old – no fat patronage, fi ne living and gout. My funeral will be better attended, no doubt. (I hear they love a dead poet round here. Yes, I hear they love a dead poet round here.)
Because it seems gravitas only comes with the staid, sentimental simplicity of Graves. Poems only get spoken when a dyed red paper poppy gets adorned as a token, in sombre tones, when they’ve become tomes dug from the tombs, when the body gets dragged to glorify and fetishise the dead, and academics take the skeletal remains and write intertextuality,
and the poet’s unspoken grappling with a suppressed sexuality. Meanwhile up the road, close to boiling, the blood pumps through the veins, takes oxygen to the brain of the living poet, who breathes life and energy into crafted poetic prose, but nobody goes, because the poet didn’t have the decency to die. There’s your problem, mate – you’re still alive!
Your mind controls your breathing, you’re making music with your speaking, you’re a highly strung but fi nely tuned meat machine, articulating/nuancing lyrical thinking.
If you want your words to carry on, you’ve got to die, rot, become carrion, let the vultures rip you up, deconstruct, decontextualise, and shit you far and wide.
Yes, they love a dead poet round here: ghostly echoey churches and dimly lit lecture halls, shadows on the walls,
resurrecting guarded cypher codes in zombie tones. Your sprightly voice isn’t welcome here – it’s your own! But they won’t be told, because… they love a dead poet round here.
True story: Laurie Lee writes poetic prose. It’s genius, the audience suppose. And when he sits an O-level exam on work written by his own hand, he scores a pathetic 43 per cent and he’s told that he ‘didn’t understand the authorial intention’! Perhaps they’ll keep him in detention until he’s a better poet, when he’s dead, because… they love a dead poet round here, yes, they love a dead poet round here. I’m thus surrounded by some of the dullest dead writers round here, and a cast of talented, frustrated, living geniuses round here,
and I am depressed… for I have spent (what’s looking increasingly likely to be) a shorter-than-average lifetime creating oral poetry, in an age where those that hold the keys only seem to validate that that they can read. The broadsheets, the literary elite and the mainstream have never listened to a word I’ve said, pop culture is now celebrity-driven drivel, and my two favourite Beatles are dead! And they like a dead artist round here, they like to misrepresent minds around here, they like to starve to death artists round here, write ‘the death of the author’ round here, throw their money at dead bards around here whilst they charge them for living round here. Make them pay through the nose for the garret that they chose in view of blue plaques around here.
And they’re scared of an artist round here who can speak their mind back without fear, who can debunk the odd myth, demystify art, tell them straight up what the poem’s about. They fear those spoken soldiers with no received pronunciation who want to reload the canon and with a bang make them listen. They ignore or abhor living poets they’d adore, because they want a dead poet round here.